The Montreal Canadiens came up short of their goal for the second straight season, but they’ve locked up one young defender who can hopefully help them make two more deep post-season runs.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Canadiens have signed defenseman Nathan Beaulieu to a two-year, one-way contract that carries an average annual value of $1 million. The cap hit, which is helped by the fact Beaulieu is just 22 and only beginning to make his jump to the NHL, works perfectly for Montreal’s cap situation. Beaulieu was set to become a restricted free agent this off-season.
The length of the deal also matches up perfectly with when veteran blueliner Andrei Markov’s current deal ends, which, should Beaulieu grow into a key defender for the Canadiens, means they’ll have the money necessary to re-sign him come 2017-18.
This past season with the Habs, Beaulieu suited up for 64 games, scoring one goal and nine points while playing bottom-pairing minutes. Primarily, Beaulieu skated alongside Sergei Gonchar and Tom Gilbert, but with Gonchar’s contract up, it’s likely Beaulieu will continue his NHL career alongside Gilbert or mixed into the lineup with Jeff Petry and Alexei Emelin.
Beaulieu, who was an all-star defenseman at the 2010-11 Memorial Cup with the Saint John Sea Dogs, was a first-round pick, 17th overall, of the Canadiens in 2011. Following his final season in the QMJHL in 2011-12, a season where he set career-bests with 41 assists and 52 points, Beaulieu moved on to the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs.
With the Bulldogs, Beaulieu excelled as a young defenseman and, over the course of 132 games in the AHL, he scored 16 goals and 62 points.
In the NHL, Beaulieu hasn’t yet been the most effective puck possession defender, but when he was apart from both Gonchar and Gilbert at 5-on-5, he had an increased shots attempts for percentage. However, when playing with defenders other than his two most common partners, Beaulieu did take more offensive zone draws, which could account for some of the increase.
While Beaulieu may not yet be ready for top four minutes, coach Michel Therrien did trust his young defenseman’s offensive acumen. In 2014-15, Beaulieu averaged 44 seconds per game on the power play skating with the team’s second unit.